Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Conference: Day One Summary

Yesterday was a very full day.

As I mentioned earlier, the conference started today. The purpose of this conference is threefold:
1. It hopes to bring together and bridge the various networks that study borders from around the world.
2. It hopes to introduce the resources of the Slavic Studies Research Centre at Hokkaido University to researchers around the world.
3. It hopes to bring together to introduce young researchers to each other in order to establish networks.

I can certainly say that it has been successful on point three. The centre is translating information into English, so it is likely going to be successful on point one. And, on point three, the dedication of the people who work here has lead to the establishment of the first edition of the Eurasia Border Review. Given the importance of Central Asia for natural resources and the multitude of borders in this region, I am confident that point one will be met.

We learned about the history of the Kuril islands and their settlement between the Japanese and the Russians. It is quite fascinating how

We also had lectures on the Japanese maritime borders, piracy and border island municipal governments. Dr. Koji Furukawa’s talk on municipal government was my favourite and the similarities between Canada are quite striking. The central government says it wants to increase economic activity in these areas but has no clue on how to do this. When local governments come up with innovative ideas the central government refuses these ideas. There is a great disconnect between the border areas and Tokyo and most bureaucrats in Tokyo have never been to the borderlands and don’t understand them. It sounds a lot like Ottawa! Dr. Furukawa concludes that local politics is extremely important and border governments have to take the initiative to look after themselves because the central government will not do it for them. This is a very similar conclusion to my findings on the Canada-U.S. border.
The furthest south Japanese “island” is a piece of coral about six feet in circumference. A concrete barrier surrounds it so that the water does not engulf and submerge it. Because of global warming, the Japanese are now attempting to grow more coral to increase its size. It has no strategic value whatsoever. It’s really quite comical.

We had a welcome diner at the Sapporo beer gardens where they serve all you can eat lamb stir-fry (called Genghis Khan) that you make on the table in front of you. Many others took advantage of the all you can drink beer while I had numerous Coca Colas. It was delicious and a good time was had by all. The vegetarians were relegated to a different table, but their meals looked delicious as well.
After the beer gardens we went to celebrate the 30th birthday of a friend of one of the English (England) PhD students here –a Bulgarian named Slavvy (I think it was a nickname of sorts. I had fascinating conversations about the differences between Slavic languages (We have a Macedonian, a Russian linguist, and a Russian Finn),  how the Balkan states functioned better when they were parts of larger empires and the failure of the nation-state concept in that area of the world, and hockey with the Finns.
I got back to the hotel at 1:00a.m. and this was early as most of the rest went on to find a karaoke bar. I do want to witness a karaoke bar, but it was too late for me. I am glad I didn’t continue as I heard some of the rest stumble and crash in around 4:00 a.m (the lectures start at 9:30—I think the drinkers are going to be hurting today).

Today we have lectures on Okinawa as a borderland and lectures on Sino-Russian relations, Central Asian migrant workers, and border issues in the Caucasus.
Dinner: Before
Dinner: During (Cooking)

Dinner: After (with wide open-mouth smile)

Old smokestack at Sapporo brewery

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